“Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the Heroes!” This is the cry of freedom, of independence, and of the indomitable spirit of the Ukrainian nation. It is a call-response that has inspired Ukrainians for a century, since the time of the Ukrainian National Republic. In these days, Ukraine is defending itself in a terrible war brought upon it by Russia. The slogan “Glory to Ukraine!” is now ubiquitous in Ukraine. It has become as defining to Ukrainians as “Vive la France!” is to the French or “God Bless America!” is to Americans.
On July 7, Croatia defeated Russia in a football match. In a video posted after their victory, former Croatia international and now scout Ognjen Vukojevic said, “This victory is dedicated to the Dynamo FC and Ukraine.” Hero of the match Domagoj Vida (on photo) said, “Glory to Ukraine! Come on!” In an instant, millions of Ukrainians were cheered. Domagaj Vida played for many years for Dynamo FC and is a hero to Ukrainians. The FIFA World Cup had been a dismal affair until then, for it has been a propaganda spectacle for the Putin regime to varnish its reputation while it is still shelling Ukrainians, bombing Syrians, and covering up the aftermath of its nerve agent attack against Britons.
When Ukrainians heard Domagoj Vida say “Glory to Ukraine!” it was a brief moment of liberation. Ukraine is waging war for national salvation against relentless Russian aggression, now for the fifth year. The feeling of catharsis when Croatia beat Russia in a football match and Domagoj Vida said what he said was tremendous. Consider it to be like the patriotic scene in the classic 1942 movie “Casablanca.” A small group of Nazi soldiers are singing German songs in the nightclub. The French citizens and refugees who crowd the place look on with decided unease. Resistance leader Victor Laslo tells the band to play “La Marseillaise.” By the end of the French national anthem, everyone is singing and drowning out the Nazi soldiers. The singer from the band, tears streaming down her face, cries out: “Vive la France!” The German occupiers promptly find an excuse to close the nightclub down. For the feelings it evokes, this cinematic moment of “La Marseillaise” and “Vive la France!” is comparable to Croatia beating Russia and Domagoj Vida saying “Glory to Ukraine!”
After Domagoj Vida said “Glory to Ukraine!” information warriors of the Putin regime went into hysterics. FIFA and Russia have worked for four years to hide the moral obscenity of the World Cup being held in Russia and Russia is waging war against Ukraine. With one excited and affectionate remark, Domagoj Vida brought to attention Ukraine, the one thing that FIFA and Russia conspired never to talk about.
But why are Russians so offended? Russian propaganda falsely says that the war in Donbas has nothing to with Russia and the status of Crimea is “settled.” If either of these things were true, then Russia has not the slightest reason to be upset by anyone saying “Glory to Ukraine!” But the Russians are very upset. The reason is that Putin’s War against Ukraine is going badly for aggressor Muscovy and the spirit of resistance of the Ukrainian nation against the foreign incursion is unbreakable. The slogan “Glory to Ukraine!” brings home this reality.
Russia and FIFA cannot remove the poisonous taint over the whole World Cup. FIFA made a huge mistake in 2014 – after Russia began its invasion of Ukraine – by not removing Russia as host of the 2018 World Cup. But FIFA is wholly corrupt, and Russia had already paid its bribes to FIFA officials. No war crime, no atrocity, no crime against humanity committed by Russia was going to stop FIFA from its descent into the moral abyss. The propaganda effort by FIFA, Russia, and the corporate sponsors to present the FIFA World Cup 2018 as “just a sporting completion” has been prodigious, but it has failed. FIFA is associated with corruption and Russia is associated with war, deceit, misery, and death. One innocent utterance of “Glory to Ukraine!” shines a light on the whole grisly mess.
“Glory to Ukraine!” is a greeting. It is a social convention. Like most social conventions it is a way of expressing unity – a way of navigating the public space in Ukraine. The call-response has evolved over the past century, as social conventions do. Listen to how the Ukrainian people say “Glory to Ukraine!” and understand that it is a gross distortion to call it political. It is much more nuanced than that. Do not believe the lies of Russia. Russia started a war against Ukraine in 2014 and has been rewriting history for hate propaganda against Ukrainians ever since. Do not believe FIFA when it ‘warns’ Domagoj Vida. FIFA disgraced itself in the eyes of Ukrainians and all people of moral conscience when it did not remove Russia as host of the World Cup back in 2014.
“Glory to Ukraine!” And a wink and a “Glory to the Heroes!” to Domagoj Vida. Hvala ti, Hrvatska!